So how did the Cougars do? Did they sign one of the state's best classes or was it a down year? Will this group help lead UH alums to the promised land or does the recruits‚ ability reflect the 3-8 season? The real answer? No one knows, not even the coaches or the players themselves. Recruiting is about as inexact as a long-range weather forecast. It is truly amazing how many so-called Top 100 prospects turn out to be busts. And for every bluechipper that quits, transfers, or doesn't live up to the hype, there is a Rocky Schwartz out there, a kid who gets overlooked but who outworks everyone and develops into a player that could start for most anyone in the country. But, nonetheless, many fans love recruiting. Alums can't help but swell with pride when a young man chooses his school over his arch-rival or some other university. And recruiting allows one to hope. Even if a fan suffered through a tough season, signing a good class means alums can see that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train. Coach Briles and his staff corralled an unspectacular but solid class, one that provides immediate help in some areas and addresses long-term concerns in others. While the Cougars whiffed when it came to signing any of the state's elite players, the coaches did assemble a fine group, one which includes several nationally rated junior college prospects, five Texas high school players who made at least one State Top 100 list, and some sleepers the coaches love. Here, then, is an analysis of the '05 UH offensive recruits.
With Kevin Kolb really the only true scholarship quarterback on campus, UH had to bring in a couple of signal callers. Even though there wasn't a Vince Young or Reggie McNeal around this year, there were some kids with real potential, and the Cougars were able to sign two of them-- Clint Walraven, an outstanding athlete from Alvarado, and Blake Joseph of Bryan, a polished passer for a schoolboy. Walraven was the show at Alvarado, a team that was unable to surround him with much of a supporting cast. Because of his athleticism, Walraven could end up at another position, or he could also be for the Cougars very much what Stefan LeFors was for Louisville, a speedster who developed into a fine passer and gave defensive coordinators nightmares. Walraven running the veer with Allen Alridge and Harold Taylor starting at running backs would be like having Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrel, and Joe DeLoach in the Cougar backfield! Joseph's name is very familiar to Texas high school coaches. His grandfather is the retired executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association and was the head man at Wharton High School, among others. Blake also has three uncles currently serving as head coaches at Texas high schools: Gary Joseph at Katy, Scott Joseph at Houston Westbury, and Doug Fertsch at Austin Westwood. This is a recruit who brings high school connections to rival that of most any assistant coach! Maybe the best thing about both Joseph and Walraven is that they are enrolled at UH and will participate in spring drills. So Coach Briles has very likely solved the potential problem of not having a backup quarterback heading into the ‘05 season, one of the priorities of this class.
The Cougars are loaded at running back, so there was no great need at the position. Even so, Anthony Evans and Ryan Gilbert will be seniors next year and Jackie Battle a junior; moreover, Harold Taylor and Anthony Alridge, the two younger backs on campus, are smaller, speedy types. While Keith Demby of Pflugerville is speedy, no one will be calling him "Half-Pint." . Standing right at six feet and weighing close to 230 pounds, he has deceptive speed and can still clock a 4.6 forty. Demby, who ran for well over 2,000 yards as a junior and was considered the best back in Central Texas this year, could be an impact player for the Coogs. He could be about the closest an RB could be to a sure thing on 3rd and short, and he can get outside and also really rumble in the open field. I have seen him run past defensive backs. He's a Lone Star Top 100 recruit, and of all the high school players UH signed, he could be the gem. He ought to be fun to watch the next four years. Rumors are swirling that UH may be on the verge of signing another running back, one of those bluechippers who didn't sign anywhere because of some academic issues, which, by the way, aren't always the fault of the player. Anyway, something should be known one way or the other sooner rather than later.
Coach Briles saw the need for wide receivers and filled the cupboard with five quality pass catchers, including one from the juco ranks. The jewel of the group is probably Jeffrey Moturi, a 5-11, 160 pound speed merchant from Irving MacArthur. His high school coach claims Moturi has a 4.3 forty time. But, hey, 4.3, 4.4 . . . the coaches we'll take him either way. Moturi had offers from the SEC and PAC 10, among several others, and was rated as high as the #69 player in the state by one service. He catches the ball well in traffic and is also a legitimate deep threat. The coaches hope he'll be the next Brandon Middleton, only with a little better speed. The junior college transfer is Jeron Harvey, who, at 6-5, would be the tallest wide receiver at UH in years, maybe the tallest ever. If Harvey's speed, hands, and route-running ability are nearly as impressive as his size, the Cougars have themselves a steal. He will put a lot of pressure on defenses down near the goal line. A 5-9 cornerback would have to mug him to keep him from catching a loft pass. Brennan Gleason (6-0, 180, 4.6) received attention from Texas Tech, Arkansas, and others but just missed out on a major offer. Maybe Gleason wasn't thrilled about that, but it made Coach Briles‚ day. While not a 4.4 guy (probably the reason he didn't get Big 12 offers), Gleason is not slow. He's a naturally talented receiver, much in the mold of a Don Maynard or Fred Biletnikoff for you older guys and gals, more like Wes Welker or the Cougars‚ own Kendal Briles for younger fans. He scored a touchdown on over a third of his receptions as a junior, and the coaches think of him as one of the major steals of this class. Chris Gilbert, who stand about 5-10 and weighs approximately 180, is the younger brother of UH running back Ryan Gilbert. The younger scion has his brother's speed and could be very effective in the slot, as could Hitchcock's T.J. Scranton, the last WR commit. Scranton is a 5-10 waterbug who can go the distance if given a crease. He was one of the last players the Cougars offered and could turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Tim Monroe of Mt. Vernon was wooed away from SMU and could play WR, but he'll probably wind up in the secondary.
With Steve Cucci graduating and two seniors at tight end this year, the Coogs needed to ink at least one tight end. While they missed on super blue chip Jermichael Finley, they got a player who could surprise. Barry Laird, brother of Cougar kicker Justin, was recruited by Iowa and others before settling on the Cougars. It's not inconceivable that he could end up at another position, but the coaches hope he'll develop into a dependable receiver. With his 6-4 frame and good feet, he could be just what the doctor ordered when the Coogs need five or six yards on 3rd down and the wideouts are getting double coverage.
But the strength of the class offensively is the line. UH brought in four solid prospects, all of whom have the potential to develop into all-conference types. Justin Washington (6-2, 295) of Port Arthur Memorial was a Houston Chronicle Top 100 selection and one of the major reasons Texas signee Jamaal Charles looked so good on film. Watch some yourself and you'll notice how often the holes Charles scampered through were opened by Washington. Jerrod Butler (6-1, 320) of Allen had more pancakes than a year's worth of IHOP customers. Butler is a load! If he has the desire and gets in top shape, he could be the best run blocker at UH since Rex Hadnot. Butler was a Lone Star Recruiting Top 100 pick. Dickinson‚s Carl Barnett is well-liked because of his 6-4, 250 frame and quickness. A couple of years in the weight room and he'll be ready to contend for a starting job. Perhaps the most intriguing of the offensive line prospects is Matt Hart (6-6, 300) of Huffman. Washington and Butler have the chance to be all-conference players. Hart may have the chance to be an All-American. He has all the tools: the height, the wingspan, the muscle, the quick feet, and the attitude. Had he played at Southlake Carroll or Lufkin instead of a 2-A program, he probably would have been on everyone's Top 100 list, not that he was completely overlooked. Arkansas, Texas A&M, and TCU, among others, all contacted him and either offered or came very close to doing so. Norbie Juist of Houston Strake Jesuit could end up in the offensive or defensive line, but he was recruited because the coaches were awed by the accuracy and quickness of his deep snaps. Auburn even offered him a scholarship. Today's game is becoming more and more specialized, and a top-notch deep snapper can mean the difference in a blocked punt or a 50-yard field goal.
So the Cougars filled some critical needs on offense. While they didn't sign a national top 100 quarterback, they got two very solid youngsters, one, Clint Walraven, a great athlete with speed to burn and the other, Blake Joseph, a more typical passing QB with good instincts. Both will participate in spring training, learn the offense, and at least one will be available if needed in the fall. UH snagged one of the best big backs in the state in Keith Demby, a guy who could get up to 250 and still have good speed within a year or two. The Coogs stocked up at wide receiver, signing a total of five. Jeff Moturi is good enough to could contend for playing time as a true freshman, and juco transfer Jeron Harvey is expected to start or at least see plenty of action. Brennan Gleason got an early offer from the Coogs, so Coach Briles is very high on him. He has everything coaches want except 4.4 speed, and Briles is smart enough to know that production is still more important than potential. Chris Gilbert and T.J. Scranton will bring good speed to the inside slot position. Barry Laird is a work in progress, but he has a chance to become an outstanding tight end. Justin Washington and Jerrod Butler are the two best guard prospects the Cougars have signed in one class in recent memory. Carl Barnett should add depth at center and can also play guard. Matt Hart is a guy who has the potential to develop into a great one. The Cougars went in to this recruiting season knowing they needed to fix the QB situation (Kolb is essentially it), bring in a bevy of talented receivers, find a RB could enough to warrant a scholarship at an already deep position, and sign some good offensive linemen, not just guys that no one else offered and were reaches. While there may not be any gold chip types in this group, the bottom line is that Coach Briles and his staff achieved all those goals.